Home Team has to keep pace with changing social values and norms, says Shanmugam

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam speaks to volunteers under the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s Neighbourhood Active Responder Programme (NEAR).
Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam speaks to volunteers under the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s Neighbourhood Active Responder Programme (NEAR). PHOTO: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS

SINGAPORE - In the face of changing social values and norms, the Home Team will have to evolve its processes to safeguard social resilience, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.

Citing ongoing debate in the United States over the videotaping of police actions, he highlighted how the Home Team has, instead, accepted that "videos are part of life".

"Every phone is a camera and we must learn to operate in an environment where all actions are on camera. No point resisting changes. It is better to embrace it," he said to some 580 guests at the opening ceremony of this year's Home Team Festival on Thursday evening.

One example is the use of body worn cameras, starting this January.These cameras, which can capture audio and video recordings, are worn by police officers on duty. Such video footage would help deter crime and serve as information or evidence for investigations.

Mr Shanmugam added that the Home Team would also face a higher load, as it copes with various challenges in the face of a shrinking local workforce.

"Traveller volume is expected to increase as Changi Airport grows as an airport hub, ambulance calls expected to double by 2030 with an aging population, and we have to deal with increasingly sophisticated cyber and transnational crime," he said.

He added that the various Home Team agencies will have to work better together, harness technology to its advantage and strengthen community partnerships.

At the same time, he stressed that Singapore has to remain committed to its zero-tolerance stance against drugs, even amid international pressures to decriminalise its use.

Earlier in the evening, Mr Shanmugam took a tour of the Home Team Festival, which will be open to the public from Friday to Sunday at Singapore Expo Hall 2 and 3.

Themed "Home Safe Home", it will showcase the work of the 10 Home Team departments across five festival zones: Border Security, Safe Neighbourhood, Emergency Preparedness, Reintegration and Community, and Home Team Memory Lane.

For instance, visitors to the Border Security zone can hop onto one of six second generation PK boats, which are used by the police coast guards to intercept border intrusions into Singapore's waters.

Unique to this year's festival, the Home Team Memory Lane will feature defining moments of the Home Team's history over the last 50 years.

Held in conjunction with Singapore's Golden Jubilee, visitors will be able to get up close to vintage vehicles used by Home Team officers of the past, such as a Volkswagen Beetle radio patrol car from the 70s. Also on display is a Merryweather Turntable Ladder, the actual rescue and fire vehicle that was despatched to the MacDonald House bombing in 1965.

At the ceremony, Mr Shanmugam also presented the Home Team Connection Long Service Awards to 42 recipients. He thanked Home Team officers and the 160 volunteers present for their contributions.